The Ninth Configuration defies categorisation and expectation. William Peter Blatty’s film is a smorgasbord of tonal shifts and bizarre characters collected within a tapestry of theological arguments and investigations into insanity. You’ll come away from this unsure of what you have just watched, but it’s likely you’ll have moments stuck in your mind for months if not years to come. Released in 1980 to weak box office and poor reviews, Blatty’s film has since gone on to become a cult film and it’s definitely worth seeking out despite its many failings.
Stacy Keach is Kane, a Colonel sent to a remote asylum for insane soldiers. Each of the patients is allowed a loose and wacky style of existence but astronaut Billy Cutshaw (Scott Wilson) gets under Kane’s skin and…things happen.
William Peter Blatty is best known as the author of The Exorcist and The Ninth Configuration is yet another film that deals with faith and religion. You’ll be sorely disappointed if you go into this expecting a horror – or even a film that matches the coherence of William Friedkin’s 1974 classic. It’s part comedy, part drama and part thriller and totally unfocused within all of these genres. Blatty’s film isn’t a success but this a remarkable car-crash of a film. The elements are there but they just doesn’t connect. Imagine if Catch-22 had a love child with One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest – and you’d only scratch the surface of the insanity held within the two hour running time of Blatty’s film. The Ninth Configuration has its flaws, but it’s a visually impressive piece. The castle exteriors were shot in Germany and Hungary and the interiors filmed in Hungary. The sets are wonderful and the gothic German castle makes for a fantastic, if totally unrealistic US military facility.
The Ninth Configuration needs to be seen to be believed. I can’t in good conscience call it a good movie, but I can call it a cult curio that needs to be experienced.